Monday, February 07, 2011

Ga (auditory processing)--the adolescent social butterfly at the CHC intelligence theory ball

In the CHC theory of intelligence, Gc is historically known as crystallized intelligence. Although featured prominently in CHC theory, Hunt (2000) has lamented the fact that researchers and intelligence scholars have largely ignored Gc recently in favor of studying more exciting or “sexy” CHC constructs (e.g., Gf). He called it the “wallflower” ability.

If Gc is the wallflower (Hunt, 2000) at the CHC ball, then Ga (auditory processing) is an adolescent social butterfly flitting from factor to factor, not readily defined or understood by others, and still in an awkward formative stage of adolescent theoretical and psychometric identity formation (with notable identity role confusion). Ga was the least studied factor in Carroll’s (1993) treatise, largely because reliable and valid technology for measuring Ga abilities did not exist during most of the days of prolific psychometric factor analytic research. This situation has been recently remedied by an explosion of wide ranging (but not necessarily internally coherent or organized research) on a wide array of Ga characteristics (see Conway, Pisoni & Kronenberger, 2009; Gathercole, 2006; Hubbard, 2010; Rammsayer & Brandler, 2007)

Conway, Pisoni and Kronenberger (2009) have gone as far as elevating auditory abilities to the status as a critical ability for higher level cognition and language development. Given the temporal/sequential nature of sound, these researchers suggest auditory abilities provide critical exposure to serially ordered events, “bootstrapping the development of sequential processing and behavior. Sound thus provides a ‘scaffolding”—a supporting framework—that organisms use to learn how to interpret and process sequential information” (p. 275). Thus, auditory abilities are believed to play a foundational causal role in the development of “perception, sensory-motor control, language, and higher level functions” (p. 278). Pretty heady stuff for the Ga social butterfly!

The possibility of components of Ga being crucial to cognitive development is reinforced by Rammsayer and colleagues (Helmbold, Troche, & Rammsayer, 2007; Rammsayer & Brandler, 2007) who have presented an intriguing program of systematic research that have suggested that auditory based temporal processing tasks form a temporal psychometric g-factor that is more strongly associated with psychometric g than a reaction time g-factor, the long considered holy grail essence of g.

Further reflecting the adolescent nature of our understanding of the Ga domain is the fact that auditory imagery, which according Hubbard (2010, p. 302) was defined by Intons-Peterson (1992, p. 46) as “the introspective persistence of an auditory experience, including one constructed from components drawn from long-term memory, in the absence of direct sensory instigation of that experience,” has a massive body of research literature—yet auditory imagery is nowhere to be found in the current CHC taxonomyHubbard's (2010) comprehensive review covers such wide ranging research as “(a) imagery for auditory features (pitch, timbre, loudness), (b) imagery for complex nonverbal auditory stimuli (musical contour, melody, harmony, tempo, notational audiation, environmental sounds), (c) imagery for verbal stimuli (speech, text, in dreams, interior monologue), (d) auditory imagery's relationship to perception and memory (detection, encoding, recall, mnemonic properties, phonological loop), and (e) individual differences in auditory imagery (in vividness, musical ability and experience, synesthesia, musical hallucinosis, schizophrenia, amusia).”

Additional examples of the emerging importance of Ga abilities, many not yet included in the CHC taxonomy, exist in other arenas. First, central auditory processing disorders (CAPD), which refer to “difficulties in the perceptual processing of auditory information in the auditory nervous system as demonstrated by poor performance in one or more of the following skill areas: auditory discrimination, auditory pattern recognition, temporal aspects of audition, auditory performance in competing acoustic signals, and auditory performance with de-graded acoustic signals” (DeBonis & Moncrieff, 2008, p. 4-5), are now recognized by professional associations serving speech-language pathologists and audiologists and have been linked to specific language disorders. Second, numerous studies have been studying performance on non- or pseudo-word repetition tasks, tasks that appear to measure a Ga conglomerate involving acoustic signal processing, phonological awareness and sensitivity, an apparent Glr-type phonological storage and recoding ability, and speech-motor planning (see review of Gathercole, 2006 for research findings and Archibald and Gathercole, 2006 for review of measures). Although the non-word repetition tests are most likely factorially messy, the resultant research begs for scrutiny given a meta-analysis of 34 studies that reported a significant difference (d = 0.65, N = 2865) between individuals with specific reading disabilities and matched control groups without a reading disability (Herrmann, Matyas & Pratt, 2006).

Third—and beyond. Research in Ga domains proliferates like mosquitoes on a humid summer evening in Minnesota, with research investigating rapid auditory gap detection (Stefanatos, Braitman, & Madigan, 2007) , speech perception and auditory temporal processing (Boets, Wouters, Van Wieringen, & Ghesquiere, 2007), rhythm perception and production (van Noorden & Moelansts, 2006), rhythm sensitivity (Holliman, Wood & Sheely, 2010),  to name but a few. Clearly the domain of Ga is not well understood. Ga-related research is scattered across research labs, disciplines, and journals. It would be a huge task to integrate all the research. A clear understanding of the dimensional structural of the very broad Ga domain requires extensive factor analytic research.

If in doubt, I recently searched the IAP Reference Data Base and found over 1,600+ references that includes some form of "auditory" term in a journal title or keywords. Click here to view.

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